The fourth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue opened Thursday in Beijing, overshadowed by a diplomatic row between the two countries over Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who reportedly has sought American asylum.
It will be unfortunate if Washington and Beijing allowed their differences to supersede other more important issues.
The United States had high expectations for the dialogue. Just a week before the start of the meeting, unnamed senior officials in the Obama administration told the New York Times that they had seen encouraging signs of cooperation from Beijing on sensitive security issues such as Iran, North Korea and Syria.
And in her remarks at the opening session of the dialogue, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said "China and the United States cannot solve all the problems of the world, but without our cooperation, it is doubtful any problem can be solved."
In his speech, Chinese President Hu Jintao also called for a "new type of relationship" between both countries to break the traditional belief that big powers only have conflicts.
Before this, the United States had held high-level security meetings with Japan and the Philippines, in the wake of recent military tensions among China, Japan and the Philippines in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. In reaction, China sent three Navy warships through the Osumi Strait off Japan's Kagoshima Prefecture early this week.
Meanwhile, just five days before the U.S.-China dialogue, a White House official said Washington would consider a proposal to sell new fighter jets to Taiwan. Some people believe that the United States is trying to use Taiwan as a bargaining chip to gain greater leverage in the dialogue.
The Chen Guangcheng incident demonstrates that there are still fundamental differences between Washington and Beijing, but this should not hamper their cooperation in other areas.
A stable U.S.-China relationship will be a blessing for the Asia Pacific region, but if the ties between the two sides become strained, it will be a disaster. (Editorial abstract -- May 4, 2012)
(By Y.F. Low)